Post-call analytics, call-agent coaching and casework documentation are some of the CSA benefits that can improve agent productivity and welfare.

A customer’s voice has never been more important. With a pandemic raging, people have many reasons to contact various organizations personally. A recent survey by Uniphore revealed the current role that voice chats play: nearly 80% of respondents said they preferred to contact customer service through a phone call, and only 12% said they preferred a chatbot.

Chatbots on e-commerce marketplaces or bank apps are examples of conversational AI. While conversational AI increases automation in self-service conversations, companies across all industries are looking to improve automation across the entire customer journey, which includes automating front and back office processes, agent tasks and post-call analytics.

This leads us to Conversational Service Automation (CSA). A CSA platform combines conversational AI, robotic process automation (RPA), and workflow automation in a conversation-centric program. With CSA, companies and their contact centers bridge humans with machines and back and front office operations throughout a customer conversation. This improves customer experience, agent productivity and cost efficiency.

DigiconAsia conversed with Annie Weckesser, Uniphore’s Chief Marketing + People Officer, to find out more about CSA’s potential in helping businesses recover from the pandemic:

DigiconAsia (DA):  How do you foresee conversational AI evolving to help businesses struggling to survive from the post-pandemic fallout in the years to come?

Annie Weckesser (AW): The pandemic has revealed the need for contact-center technologies to be more resilient and scalable. According to a report by McKinsey, there has been a 15% increase in call volumes during lockdowns. A recent Uniphore report has also found that on top of routine contact center traffic, over 42% of respondents have reached out to resolve COVID-related issues in early 2020. This could include finding the status of an unemployment claim, making a mortgage payment, or finding the latest information on COVID-19 testing centers around the area. There has been an accelerated shift towards the use of AI in contact centers to enable businesses to manage the high volume of calls while keeping costs low.

On live calls, CSA platform can co-pilot with an agent and function as an intelligent assistant to the human agent. CSA allows contact centers to monitor every customer interaction to ensure compliance and quality. This ensures businesses do not suffer downtime due to lack of manpower.

CSA can also be considered as a form of an agent co-pilot that can take over transactional conversations while also acting as coach during calls. The CSA platform can accurately predict customer sentiment—all in real-time, thus lowering average handle time (AHT) while also delivering empathy in conversations—something that is extremely critical during this pandemic. Once each call ends, CSA will automate the after-call summary and call disposition, thus freeing agents of mundane tasks and improving their overall efficiency.

DA: Will the availability of conversational AI make human agents extraneous?

AW: AI will not replace humans but will make them more efficient at their jobs. The use of CSA platform helps free up agents, thereby achieving the high demand for simplicity, customization, and rapid resolution in a contact center environment. The aim is to ensure agents can focus their time to converse with and actively listen to customers empathetically and efficiently, even from remote locations.

DA: Do you believe that businesses can provide quality customer support to clients without compromising on employee welfare?

AW: A clear challenge for contact centers in the year of the pandemic is agents working remotely. CSA makes it easy to run call centers remotely and still ace customer service. The CSA platform is equipped to help agents during challenging times by way of real-time coaching and training.

CSA platform can also accelerate modern collaboration and assist in the transformation of how employees, customers, and things connect. As such, the platform can benefit both employees and customers simultaneously.

DA: Contact centers and call centers comprise a huge industry in some countries, such as India and the Philippines, where agents are among the most overworked and sleep-deprived. How important is it in terms of customer satisfaction to improve the employee experience?

AW: According to research in the Asia Pacific region by Willis Towers Watson, over nine in 10 employees reported some level of anxiety from the pandemic. A further 70% conveyed distraction from work due to COVID-19 concerns, while only 32% are able to balance working from home and other responsibilities. Also, 61% stated financial concerns stemming from the COVID-19 disruption.

To truly hear employees and address their concerns, leaders need to be available and regularly check in with team members. They should be approachable and use their voice-over-chat applications or emails during discussions to maintain authentic, human connections.

All-hands meetings are another way to capture the voices of team members. These meetings are likely to be held virtually today, but the goal remains the same.